Skip to main content

Full text of "A search in secret Egypt"

See other formats


IN THE TEMPLE OF DENDERAH           201
peasants were guiding the muddy irrigating water into narrow trenches that crossed and criss-crossed their fields. The water was hauled and thrown from the river bank by a series of water-lifts and hundreds of channels. I listened to a loin-clothed man, who bent over his water-lift, as Pharaoh's loin-clothed peasants had bent over the same kind of apparatus, singing in rhythm with every motion of the creaking wooden machine, which raised and poured water from a bucket most monotonously. It was nothing more than a long, flexible pole poised on a horizontal prop and fitted with a heavy balancing weight at its lower end. The bucket was attached by a rope to the other end. A downward pull at the rope and the bucket sank in the water; a release and it rose, replenished, to deposit the water into a trench. This ancient invention had proved its worth for the peasant of five thousand years ago; to-day it was proving its worth for the peasant of the twentieth century.
I crossed to the other side of the terrace and looked out upon another portion of this scene which had met the eyes of vanished priests and dead Pharaohs.
The Libyan hills rose suddenly out of the west—pink fortress walls behind the temple, affording it shelter and protection, as it were. Here and there the sand had drifted in to form piled heaps wherever the hills had dipped or hollowed their long line. The ruddy heights seemed like vivid flames which had thrust huge tongues out of the earth and then been magically turned to stone. Perhaps they were burning still, for a fierce heat was thrown back in my face from them as they caught the strong sun of the growing day.
Those long chains of hills stretched their way right across Egypt into distant Nubia, running parallel with the great river which Nature had set them up to guard in this mysterious fashion, placing them but a few miles away from its banks to prevent it running off into the vast desolation of the African desert, there to trickle its life away below the sands. Was it done of set purpose, I speculated. Without this striking arrangement of river and hill and source there could have been no Egypt, no land whose history receded so far into the sleeping shadows of antiquity. And I accepted the response which came up to my thinking brain out of the profounder places of being —that the gods, whose instrument Nature was and nothing more, had certainly created this arrangement when they had prepared the way for the mighty civilization that was to rise